Dan Wilson and Anthony Ray Hinton

A fresh start and a first pitch

Books and baseball forge a connection

In 2016, incoming freshman and Gopher baseball recruit Eli Wilson and his class read the book Just Mercy by author Bryan Stevenson. It told the story of Anthony Ray Hinton, who served 30 years on death row in a prison in Alabama, convicted of a crime he didn’t commit.

Freed in 2015, Hinton spoke at a CEHD Reads event at Northrop in 2016 and talked about never giving up hope. Toward the end of Hinton’s talk, a student asked if he had any regrets about what might have happened had he not been imprisoned for three decades. Hinton thought for a moment and then offered that he had been a pretty good baseball player in high school and had even tried out for the Seattle Mariners, but he never knew whether he’d made the team before his arrest.

In the audience that evening were Eli’s parents, alumni Dan and Annie Wilson. After Dan’s years as a Gopher baseball star himself, he went on to become a Major League Baseball All-Star playing for the Seattle Mariners.

At Eli’s urging, Dan and Ray had an emotional meeting after the talk, and last summer Hinton was invited to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Mariners game.

“Ray is an incredible human being,” says Annie. “He’s just loving and overflowing with personality and joy. It was a way of reconciling so much of the wrong that’s been done to him, [having a part in] bringing back some of those life experiences that he wasn’t allowed to have.”

Hinton has now written his own book, The Sun Does Shine. And thanks to the generosity of Annie and Dan Wilson, “Ray’s Book Club” will provide ongoing support to CEHD Reads.

Learn more about CEHD Reads, now supported by Ray’s Book Club.

Read the related story about Eli Wilson, Education and baseball—in that order.

Story by Rick Moore | Photo by Ben Van Houten, courtesy of the Seattle Mariners | Spring/summer 2019 (3/1/19)